Thursday, September 20, 2012

Secondary Of Primary Concern Sunday At Raiders; Goodbye, Steve Sabol

On Coordinator Thursday, offensive coordinator Todd Haley noted that Oakland does not play as much man coverage as in the past. "The [Oakland] Raiders look different than what you're used to seeing."

Very different. Primarily because their secondary is in such disarray.

Injuries have plagued the Raiders starting the opening day against the San Diego Chargers when starting cornerback Ron Bartell went down to a broken scapula (or, shoulder blade - the bone that connects the humerus/upper arm bone with the clavicle/collar bone), and has been placed on the short-term IR.

Add to that, they lost their other starting cornerback Shawntae Spencer in the Miami Dolphins in week two for several weeks to a sprained foot. They will likely be starting Pat Lee and Joselio Hanson, soon-to-be NFL All-Pros I'm sure, against the Steelers on Sunday.

Coye Francies was promoted off of their practice squad on Sunday, and Ohio St. Buckeye product Chimdi Chekwa could be promoted as well at some point, for depth and for serving Nickel and/or Dime and possibly special teams. They also have Philip Adams on their roster, but he is mainly for returns.

Yet, they traded DeMarcus Van Dyke. That's fine, gold is worth more than silver anyway. -

That said, this is still the NFL and we all know what former commissioner Pete Rozzelle maintained.

On any given Sunday in 2006, the Steelers went into the Black Hole to face a 1-5 Raiders team (they ended up 2-14) and lost 20-13. This version is winless, but could easily be 1-1 if they hadn't lost their long snapper Jon Condo to injury with a blow to the head. That spelled disaster as reserve middle linebacker Travis Goethel went in to sub for him and saw three snaps. Only one of them was a successful punt.

Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley, though, said that the crowd noise of the Black Hole won't affect how they do things. Specifically speaking of the noise that can be generated there, he knows it can be a factor but he won't change what he wants to do.

When asked if crowd noise ever dictates going to the no-huddle offense, Haley replied, "No I don't think it will ever be a factor if we go to it. Crowd noise can always be a factor....It's always an issue but it will never be a big enough issue that you don't do it. You are going to have to use it in the two-minute situations at the end of the half and at the end of the game, and throughout the game whenever you see fit."

Not that this is surprising, but Haley also said the Steelers will ease Rashard Mendenhall back into normal workload when he is cleared.

"When the green light is given, you still have to be smart with it. The guy has been out a good part of a year....Easing him into it would be the way to go about it."

All of what Haley said regarding attacking the Raiders was recorded on on Thursday. -

The Raiders aren't the only ones with secondary issues, though, as safety Troy Polamalu missed practice for the fifth day in a row and isn't expected to play again Sunday in Oakland. For that matter, neither is James Harrison. -

Every Steelers fan know what Polamalu means to this defense. Fortunately, the defense also has free safety Ryan Clark back, which Polamalu acknowledges is a boon to the defense.

"He studies a lot of film, got a great sense of our defense, a natural leader, an awesome football player."

Broadening the defensive look a bit, Stevenson Sylvester was back at practice on Thursday and that's good news to a defense short on linebackers. He knows his presence will be welcomed because of all of the injuries to the position.

"Linebacker position is hard, it's hard to get away from injuries, this year we got a little bit but we're making a comeback," he said.

He's right, which means veteran linebackers need to prove worthy of the money they've been paid. Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley NEED to lead these this corps from this point on. This is an important year for Jason Worilds as well. All are very important while Polamalu and Harrison remain sidelined.

Not just for Sunday, but as a realistic at what could the lineup as early as next season.


We at If It Ain't Steel were going to do a specific tribute to Steve Sabol for his contributions to the NFL and each of our individual lives. When, though, we saw the emotion on host Rich Eisen's face as he announced the passing of Mr. Sabol on Tuesday, September 18, we knew we couldn't write anything more moving or poignant than what was in his eyes and in his countenance.

We capitulate to human emotion and provide you the segment NFL Network provided: